Business Objects and SAP plan Australian blitz

The local division of business intelligence vendor Business Objects has outlined ambitious goals for the Australian market as it settles into its new relationship with parent SAP.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor

The local division of business intelligence vendor Business Objects has outlined ambitious goals for the Australian market as it settles into its new relationship with parent SAP.


"Anything less than 50 to 60 per cent growth in the Australian context would be disappointing," Rob Wells, Business Objects vice president and managing director, Australia New Zealand, told ZDNet.com.au.

The executive admitted this was a "very aggressive growth target", but said he believed it was achievable through increasing business intelligence use in the SAP community as well as nurturing growth in the existing customer space. SAP acquired Business Objects globally nine months ago.

Together SAP and Business Objects head the global business intelligence market with 19.2 per cent market share, according to 2007 figures from research firm IDC. Alone, Business Objects amounts to 14.2 per cent. However, in Australia the market tells a different story, with Cognos taking out the top spot at just under 20 per cent market share, followed by Business Objects at below 18 per cent.

Cognos, like Business Objects, has been swallowed by a larger corporation. Its takeover by IBM was approved earlier this year. Oracle also featured in the business intelligence buy up as it purchased Hyperion in mid-2007.

Ullrich Loeffler, a program manager focusing on software research for analyst firm IDC said both Cognos and Business Objects would likely do well because the overall business intelligence market was growing, although rival firm Gartner predicted in January that the market's growth rate would slow.

Loeffler said that while both acquisitions put the independence of the business intelligence vendor at the forefront, moves will be made to join the purchaser and the purchased. "Behind the scenes they are working more on product integration, technology integration," he said.

The aim will be to create a better functionality for customers using both the companies' business intelligence solution as well as its enterprise applications or databases than if they only had one product, according to Loeffler: "You want SAP customers to move over to Business Objects and vice versa."

Getting cosy in the back room
Meanwhile SAP and Business Objects have taken steps to integrate their own corporate back office systems, with Business Objects being migrated to SAP's core. Everything has been merged, according to Wells: HR, CRM, financials, firewalls — "the lot".

"It's a mammoth task," he said, but added: "So far so good."

The secret to a painless transition for Business Objects employees has been getting up close and personal with their SAP counterparts. "We have buddies in SAP," Wells said.

The plan is, where possible, to move the employees into the one office, but this will not happen in Australia just yet due to capacity problems in existing Sydney and Melbourne offices.

While Wells said the back office migration was going off well, he added that those watching the acquisition will need to wait longer to see if it will work well over all, pointing to upcoming SAP results as the "best measurement of whether this thing is working".

The consolidation of business intelligence vendors and the entry of Microsoft into the fray will make a splash in the near future, according to Loeffler, who thinks it will cause pricing to take a hit via bundling of products.

"One plus one is never two," he said.

Microsoft in particular has an advantage due to its large customer base and developer community, according to the analyst. "It has the financial backing to really give away a product in a bundle — it looks like it's free," Loeffler said.

"They definitely will increase their revenue share, but it will take a long time," he continued. Microsoft's share of the Australian business intelligence market is only hitting single digits.

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